Roughly based on poet and novelist C.J. Driver’s previously banned Elegy for a Revolutionary, first-time filmmaker Paul Van Zyl’s 22-minute film of the same name, is an unequivocal masterpiece.
Of self-admitted Afrikaner decent, Van Zyl’s movie is about two close-knit, white liberals, Jeremy James (Martin Copping) and Donald Quick (Brian Ames). These handsome college friends join the African National Congress (ANC) during the Apartheid Regime (1948-1994) in South Africa because of their idealistic belief that they can make a difference. While the film is clearly political in its exposé of history at that time, it reaches far beyond the perils of revolution, pitting friend against friend, with dire consequences.
The fact that Elegy for a Revolutionary is almost beatifically shot— considering the apocalyptic circumstances of sabotage and war—is analogous to the philosophy of James and Quick. There is an unquestionable innocence about these young men, though they sign on to become saboteurs. Or, as their more devious mentor Hunter (Glen Vaughan) describes them, “saboteurs with a conscience.” As Quick remarks, they will be happy to make and place the plastic explosives, as long as the black security guard and others that are several feet away don’t get hurt. But can the saboteurs really be that naïve, and should they have been so surprised when the security guard and others did get blown away, as Hunter more plausibly deduces?
Van Zyl’s potent analysis of character— and the exploration of whether friendship, loyalty and idealism are of help or hindrance during wartime, are just a few of the infinite questions brought to light in his gem of a film. Perhaps my only complaint about Elegy for a Revolutionary is that it’s a short and not a feature. Here’s hoping that Paul Van Zyl rectifies this annoying problem, in the very near future.
This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.